– By Stephen Harper
Detachment, pain and loss are key elements playing throughout the film Hymns.
We begin with a narration explaining there’s been a war, which is still ongoing. Already the biggest major cities around the world have fallen and it’s been going on for some time. Obviously most men have been drafted, so they who’ve been left behind await their loved ones’ return.
Instead of being post apocalyptic or futuristic like many regarding themes such as this, Hymns plays out as an extremely personal and poetic piece. Set against the backdrop of a secluded rural home surrounded by dark woodland, the film has a sense of loneliness and wrenching pain right from the beginning. Long camera angles and minimal dialogue is its tool to show how affected and stricken these characters have become.
The narration continues in letter form sent between Ellis (Ben Scott-Brandt), who’s away fighting, and his partner Ingrid (Deidre Herlihy), who’s behind, equally suffering. Beautiful sweeping ocean scenes blends within the dialogue, contrasting the darkness that overcomes whilst isolated within the home.
Ellis instructs Irene (Melissa Navia) to come and stay to support Ingrid. To lookout for her, support her and keep her safe. Ingrid and Irene are complete opposites, but connect through the common bond of war.
Dynamics change when young, naive Mary (Mirjam Egeris Karstoft) the neighbour comes to stay when her father passes away and even though Mary and Irene seem to get along, things are quickly spiralling for Ingrid. Tensions are building and when Ingrid believes Ellis has returned home and the war is over, it’s now that her pain, welfare and ultimately her mental state that is succumbed.
Director Ryan Balas has created a piece of visual poetry that is extremely personal, emotional and emotive.
Hymns is too much of a personal film to fully grasp at times. Often stunning in its cinematography and underlying narrative, what hinders it is its length. The film at times drifts and I felt it could have been done in half the time. It’s aims and objectives are thoroughly examined though and displaying the psychological effects of trauma is very well presented.